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Variety Drops Paywall, Kicks Gray Upstairs, Adds Eller for Editorial Troika

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood February 26, 2013 at 1:09PM

The Variety shoe has finally dropped as media mogul Jay Penske has tapped the L.A. Times' Claudia Eller and Variety staff editors Cynthia Littleton and Andrew Wallenstein as the new editors-in-chief of Variety, charged with leading the 100-year-old trade through its next non-print evolution.

Jay Penske
Jay Penske

USC grad Eller is a respected film industry player who moved from The Hollywood Reporter to Variety (1989 to 1993) --where she was an indefatigable killer reporter willing to scrap with the titans of the town--and then spent two decades at The Los Angeles Times, where she covered the business of Hollywood as a hard-nosed, savvy reporter, columnist and entertainment news editor. The fact that she is willing to return to a trade--albeit in a leadership position--reveals that even the future of the mighty LAT is less sturdy than it once was. Will Penske encourage Eller to unleash her inner Nikki Finke? Let's hope so. (The future course of Penske's relationship with Deadline's Finke is a source of endless speculation.)

I always had my money on tireless Variety deputy editor Littleton to succeed Gray at Variety, a move that is long overdue. I worked with her at THR, when she moved from television editor to editor-in-chief before Bart lured us both to Variety in 2007. Clearly, Littleton played a better game of survivor than I did. I succumbed to layoffs in 2009 which also hit reporter Ben Fritz, who now writes for The Wall Street Journal, and later, Todd McCarthy and David Rooney, critics at THR.

Littleton started out at United Press International and went on to Broadcasting & Cable magazine before joining Variety and then THR. She just published "TV on Strike: Why Hollywood Went to War Over the Internet," the definitive account of the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike, and also co-authored with Susanne Daniels "Season Finale: The Unexpected Rise and Fall of the WB Network and UPN."

Variety TV editor Wallenstein joined Variety in 2011 from THR, where he covered TV and tech for eight years. Wallenstein has contributed commentary for NPR's "All Things Considered" and has hosted TV Guide Channel's "Square Off." He has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia and has taught undergrad journalism courses at several universities.

This article is related to: Media, New Media & Technology, Variety

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.